Keeping Score

Should A Former Man Be Able To Fight Women?

Transgender fighter Fallon Fox is sparking a debate in MMA

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From left: Allanna Jones and transgender MMA fighter Fallon Fox at a press conference promoting their CFA fight taking place on May 24.

When Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter Fallon Fox, the former Burton Boyd, told Sports Illustrated in early March that she used to be a man, the condemnation came quickly. “All hell broke loose, man,” says Jorge de la Noval, CEO of the Championship Fighting Alliance, the promotion which staged a Fox fight, which she won in 39 seconds, just five days prior. De la Noval was flooded with phone calls and emails, insisting that Fox — who got gender reassignment surgery back in 2006 — was some sort of sideshow who should never be allowed to fight women. It’s one thing for a male-t0-female transgender athlete to, say, play tennis against other women, like Reneé Richards famously did back in the 1970s. Or even basketball: that’s not a combat sport. But MMA is brutal. Letting Fallon Fox back in the ring could be dangerous.

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fighter Matt Mitrione called Fox a “lying, sick, sociopathic, disgusting freak. And I mean that.” The UFC suspended Mitrione for 16 days, and fined him an undisclosed amount. “She can try hormones, chop her pecker off, but it’s still the same bone structure a man has,” UFC star Ronda Rousey told the New York Post. “It’s an advantage. I don’t think it’s fair.”

Fox says she anticipated the negative feedback. “I’m not surprised at all,” Fox, 37, tells TIME. “It’s part of our history as human beings. People that we don’t understand, we always try to make fun of, of sensationalize.”

(MORE: Transgender Athletes – Why Lana Lawless Is Suing The LPGA) 

Despite the backlash, Fox is still fighting against females. The Florida State Boxing Commission has licensed Fox to fight as a woman, and Fox will face Allanna Jones in a CFA fight in Coral Gables, Florida on Friday night. Cable channel AXS TV has picked up  Fox’s card, which begins at 9:00 eastern, for a national telecast. “AXS TV has a long history of broadcasting the highest quality and most compelling non-UFC fights out there,” Mark Cuban, founder, chairman and president of AXS TV, writes TIME in an email. “We have long-term partnerships with several top end promoters. They do the match making, we don’t pick the fighters. That said, we are really excited to have a card with Fallon Fox on AXS TV. There is no question there is quite a bit of curiosity about her.”

Science seems to be on Fox’s side.  “Male to female transsexuals have significantly less muscle strength and bone density, and higher fat mass, than males,” says Dr. Eric Vilain, director of the Institute For Society And Genetics at UCLA. Vilain examined Fox’s medical records and wrote a letter supporting her bid to fight as a woman. He also helped the Association of Boxing Commissions write its transgender policy. In order to fight against women, male-to-female athletes who had surgery after puberty must show that “surgical anatomical changes have been completed, including external genitalia and gonadectomy” and that “hormone therapy appropriate for the assigned sex (female) has been administered by a board certified endocrinologist or internist, pediatrician, or D.O. or any other specialist known to have significant knowledge with transsexuals and transgender individuals for a MINIMUM of TWO YEARS after gonadectroy. This is the current understanding of the minimum amount of time necessary to obviate male hormone gender related advantages in sports competition.”

Still, could Fox be stronger than the other women because she used to be a man? “She could be,” says Vilain. “But sports is made up of competitors who, by definition, have advantages for all kinds of genetics reasons. And no one complains about it.” A woman runner may be naturally faster, a woman basketball player taller, than her cohort. To exclude Fox because of her surgery, Vilain argues, would be discriminatory.

Plus, Fox’s low testosterone could offset any advantage. Since Fox has neither testicles nor ovaries, which both produce testosterone, her levels are likely lower than those of her female competitors. Fox says her training partner, who is a woman, is stronger than her, and has more endurance. “So I really have to work on my technique,” Fox says. She’s not winning on brute strength alone, she says. Fox is winning because she has serious fighting skills.

While growing up in Toledo, Ohio, Burton Boyd didn’t dream of a fighting career. He dreamt of becoming like his sister. “Ever since I was a child I had those feelings,” Fox says now. “It’s kind of hard to describe. It’s like trying to describe the color blue to someone who is color blind. What I can say is that it’s a subconscious feeling, drive, that tells you to want your body to the be the opposite sex of what you were born.”

Despite these feelings, Fox fathered a child at 19. She returned from a stint in the Navy, and became a truck driver to raise money for the 2006 reassignment surgery, in Thailand. Around 2008, a trainer at Fox’s gym introduced her to MMA. “I saw that there were other female fighters out there,” Fox says. “It just hooked me in. Women were fighting? That’s awesome. It was empowering and wonderful to watch. And I wanted to be just like them.”

This is Fox’s third pro fight. Nobody has lasted more than two minutes in the cage with her. Now, she’s not only fighting for herself, but for transgender acceptance. “I’m impressed that the CFA is sticking its neck out and letting her fight,” says Dr. Christopher Estes, a professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Miami Health System. “And Fallon Fox has a lot of guts too. She’s bringing transgender identity to the forefront. We’re now having a discussion – where do transgender folks fit into society? People struggling with these issues can say, ‘This is someone I identify with, someone I can see.’ She validates people.”

To Fox, the reaction to her bouts is like the response to MMA at the start. “People thought that MMA fighters were going to kill each other in the cage,” says Fox. “That just hasn’t happened.” Over time, her critics may not be as hysterical. “It’s just an educational thing that needs to happen with people,” she says. For now, she’s trying her best to drown out the negativity. “Every day I wake up and see myself in the mirror, it’s a high moment,” Fox says. “I know who I am. And it feels really good to be who I am.”

MORE: Women’s UFC Star Ronda Rousey, Unplugged

28 comments
pammy
pammy

Not buying the medical study.  You can take all the hormone pills/injections and still be what you were born.  This man still has a man's strength. What a shame.  This dude masquerading as a woman decimated a real woman and people are applauding.  I think he flubbed his first fight and then showed his real power against his last opponent.  She should sue MMA and this shame of a man.  He couldn't cut it as a man and now he wants to show how he can beat up women.  Why doesn't he fight a real man?  What a worthless piece of trash.

wstartar
wstartar

i am so sick of Fallon and others saying "the science/medical community agrees that Fallon doesn't have an advantage and should be allowed to fight"   


They have like 2 or 3 doctors who they get quotes from, who clearly have some agenda in the field, I am sure if you surveyed a thousand doctors at least 95 percent of them would no brainer say obviously she shouldn't be fighting women....  But obviously some doctor isn't going to attach himself to the cause of speaking out against fallon fox....so all we hear is the couple doctors make statements supporting her, and Fallon and whoever else act like the medical community all agrees in her favor.  She is a sociopath, totally insane and delusional to think what she's doing isn't wrong on so many levels....


Furthermore, she was never any kind of accomplished athlete during 31 years of being a male, and suddenly becomes female, and at the age of 34 starts learning MMA and is able to become a high level pro in a couple years, fighting in the pro ranks and knocking girls out at age 38?  she is DELUSIONAL to think she is just very skilled at her craft and that theres nothing out of the ordinary about her situation....even though there are no other 38 year old women fighting high level women's MMA, and there certainly aren't any pro MMA fighters who picked up the sport in their mid 30s.....   absolute sociopath....you never were a high level athlete as a male, become female at 31, a few years later you have the desire to compete at fighting women....  And despite no noteworthy athletic history during your first 31 years on this planet, upon becoming a female, you were able to pick up the sport of Woman's MMA quicker and at a later age than any other woman ever has, and it's no woman has ever come close to just starting the sport in their mid 30s and within a couple years becoming a pro.   The real female fighters have been high level athletes their entire lives and training working hard learning the sport for most of their lives.....years of training and hard work, but it somehow just came a lot easier to Fallon, I wonder why?

angelmoreno666666
angelmoreno666666

I disagree with Chloe Sagal.  Technique is part of it, but relying on strength and condition is necessary to be the best.  Look at GSP look at his body! Every part of his body is muscle that's why he is the best welter weight fighter as opposed to other fighters just as good (technique wise), the extra strength in his muscles and conditioning allows for quicker power moves and relfex and over all better control on his opponents.  And Chloe biatch you're not a fighter so STFU biatch!  

Overal I think it's WRONG to allow a transgender man-chick fight against a woman!  Fallon clearly looks like a man wearing a wig on.  Big ass shoulders and bigger fist and feet.  That to me is the real discriminating factor! Allow Fallow to fight other Trans genders and that would be "FAIR"  otherwise it's like watching a gay dude beat up on a women.  ITS WRONG!  THEY are not the SAME SEX!  Surgery and popping pills does not make a guy into a man!  Such CRAP I'm READING!  

ChloeSagal
ChloeSagal

This debate is completely worthless.

Technique makes a better fighter.  If you are relying on strength and don't know how to fight a stronger opponent or one with a different body type, then you aren't a very capable fighter.  After all, what's the point of learning any martial arts when all we had to do is lift?  Fights are already restricted to weight class, so the distinction of gender is completely irrelevant.

TomasRicardez
TomasRicardez

We should just eliminate all the gender boundaries in MMA and see how that turns out.

LoocyE
LoocyE

board certified endocrinologist Dr. Ramona Krutzi, MD in http://www.bloodyelbow.com/2013/3/20/4128658/dr-ramona-krutzik-endocrinologist-discusses-possible-advantages-fallon-fox-has/in/3847225:   

Typically, you're looking at about 15 years after androgen suppression and sexual reassignment surgery to really start to see significant changes in bone density. It's been too early for her to see much of a decrease in bone mass or to make her equal to that of a female. She started off with a much higher bone density than other women her same age, and therefore will maintain a lot of that for a while. Additionally, because she is taking estrogen, that will actually help to maintain that bone mass. Women also have lighter, child bearing hips because of the difference in hormones during the body's developmental years. Her skeleton and body mass and shape developed a long time ago. Those changes cannot be undone. They are permanent.

Her testosterone levels are more than likely in the normal female range, since her adrenals are the primary source for it now. She didn't undergo hormone therapy and surgery until she was fully developed, as compared to someone who completes therapy and surgery in their adolescence or very early adulthood, when they haven't completely developed. She has the potential to be significantly stronger because her muscle development reached several years beyond full maturity, giving her the potential to be significantly stronger than other age matched women.There's not really a way to determine how much her muscle mass will decrease over time. What can be said is that she has a naturally higher propensity to build and maintain muscle mass because she was once a fully developed, adult male. You can't ever take that away from her.

KatelynJecmen
KatelynJecmen

Obviously the reading comprehension of some of the comentary is pretty low cus despite the fact that the article very clearly addresses the medical standpoint of any advantage being gone ignorant bafoons still chant that Fox has some perceived advantage based on pretty much everything that was mentioned as having gone away on her, as in they F-ING TESTED HER AND PROVED SHE DIDN'T HAVE ANY PHYSICAL ADVANTAGES OVER THE AVERGE WOMAN IN HER WEIGHT CLASS, sorry you are too stupid to understand such simple words >_<

LoocyE
LoocyE

Fallon Fox moves like a man and fights like a man. When you watch one of Fox's fights, it doesn't look like two women doing MMA fighting -- it looks like a man and a woman.   The people who are paying to see Fallon Fox fight are people who get off on watching a man beat up a woman.  The whole point of having a separate women's division is to account for developmental differences between the bodies of those who grew up male and those who grew up female.  I support Fox's desire to live life as a female, but you can't deny her 30 years in a male body and it is wrong for her to put herself in a situation where she is using her male strength to beat up women.

jaythenerdkid
jaythenerdkid

That's an incredibly transphobic title. I can't believe TIME would publish something like this. Fallon Fox is not a "former man" - she's a transgendered woman. This is disgusting.

tmom
tmom

He is still a man, still stronger than most women.  He changed his outside, but he is still a man.  Why doesnt hecome the first "woman" to fight men?  Maybe he couldn't cut it huh!

Chosun1
Chosun1

Should A Former Man Be Able To Fight Women? 

No.


ChristineFaithSpencer
ChristineFaithSpencer

This has an undertone of a lot of transphobia.  It sure starts out really bad.

angelmoreno666666
angelmoreno666666

The men would win over trans genders and woman.  The transgenders would beat up the women.  and  women can only beat women.  So, men would win majority of the time!! 

LoocyE
LoocyE

@KatelynJecmen On the contrary, that's not what they "proved" at all -- all they said was that, without testosterone, she won't maintain muscle mass like an average male.  That's not a surprise.  However, she still has a very different body from living in a totally male body for 30  years, and it is not just her height.  Watch her fights and it becomes obvious.  This is a harmful to women because it is glorifying women getting beat up by a person who appears to be a man.  

ursprung
ursprung

@Chosun1 I have to agree. This is patently unfair in so many ways. Hopefully they can create a separate category for trans or allow trans to fight in their original sex category. I am amazed by the very woman-hating comments here by people who portend to 'be' women.  One major quality missing from some of these trans women's comments which reveals a lot about who they are is the lack of empathy for a woman who is beaten by this MTF.

jadd3065
jadd3065

Just because one speaks out against something doesn't mean that they're afraid of it, just concerned about other doors being opened.  If a transgender wants to live his/her life how ever it's his/her problem.  But who's to say that a sick man calling himself transgender  just to get into a public bathroom with little girls.  There are men who consider themselves transgender with the surger.

jaythenerdkid
jaythenerdkid

@ChristineFaithSpencer It's disappointing that more people aren't making noise about this. I've barely seen any replies to the article on Twitter, and most of them were from people I already know.

armozel
armozel

@ChristineFaithSpencer  

 Pretty much true. It's just sad how sports is one of the last bastions of transphobia and transbashing left (aside from trollish radfem blogs). :|

KatelynJecmen
KatelynJecmen

They clearly stated
 
“Male to female transsexuals have significantly less muscle strength and bone density, and higher fat mass, than males,” says Dr. Eric Vilain, director of the Institute For Society And Genetics at UCLA.

Again go back to school and brush up on those reading comprehension skills there buddy cus you obviously missed this in the article, just admit it the only reason you are even bent is because you hate trans women in general, has nothing to do with protecting women from men but from preventing trans women from being able to participate in anything in America, you are oviously prejudice and just using "this is dangerous for women" as a cover to not make yourself look so bad.

wstartar
wstartar

@KatelynJecmen  WOW you are an angry human being...I don't know what invested interest you have in transgender fighters rights, but calm down...You are quoting ONE DOCTOR's OPINION!!!  You Fallon supporters are acting like this one or 2 doctors who have made statements in favor means the entire medical community is in agreement that Fallon should be aloud to fight.... And I am sure those doctors have some invested interest in the topic as well...  

Fallon is delusional to be doing what she is doing....I am a huge supporter of the Transgender community, but Fallon is giving it a bad name, because what she is doing is blatantly wrong.  


If I was an interviewer and I wanted to give Fallon a reality check, I would ask this series of questions, not giving her your opinion,  just forcing her to think critically about some key factors...


A.  Were you an accomplished athlete during your 31 years as a male?


  ......No......


B.  Do you think if you remained male, and decided to learn MMA you could have made it to the professional ranks as a male?  


Obviously the answer is no, but who knows what Fallon would say....


C.  You started learning the sport of mixed martial arts at the age of 34.  Are there any other professional fighters MALE OR FEMALE that picked up the sport in their 30s and then made it to the pro ranks ?


No


D.  Why do you think you were able to pick up the sport so late in life and then become a professional so quickly when nobody else has ever been able to do this?



I would hope that these questions would at least make Fallon think....Considering all of the other pro WMMA fighters have been training their entire lives, and are mostly in their primes, just the one person who is able to pick up the sport in their mid 30s and fight professionally as at the age of 38 is Fallon Fox.....But this must be because she is     so skilled...these skills that she picked up in next to no time.... Having been a male is CLEARLY not a factor here, and her testosterone levels clearly prove that!

ursprung
ursprung

@KatelynJecmen What an arrogant reaction to seeing a woman getting beaten up--'the pain we live with'.  No honey, this article is NOT about your pain.  It is about the pain women are getting when a man who takes female hormones beats up a woman.  I am all on board with men and women wanting to take hormones and simulate the opposite sex but the fact of science is that you cannot really change sex or gender. That is built into your body from bone density and structure to the very way one approaches physical space. Claiming oppression here is just wrong-sighted.  Fallon looks like a man to most anyone who knows this sport--she moves like a man, she fights like a man. That she happens to be trans is what renders this category of 'woman sports' problematic. It is unfair she be allowed to fight against woman. She is not in any way aside from a few aesthetic details, a woman.

LoocyE
LoocyE

@KatelynJecmen Katelyn, it's not that she's "built".  What you notice when you watch her move is shoulders and her legs and hips are very different from any female fighter, her center of gravity is totally different, her whole way of moving is very different.  Watch the videos of her fighting.  That has to do with physiological differences that do not go away with hormones.  

I appreciate that you have had a painful and lonely life.  It must be very difficult to grow up with a disconnect between how your brain identifies you and how your body is built.  I respect your right to live your own life and aspire to your own goals.  However, you can't just pretend that thirty years of someone's life didn't exist, or that a lifetime in a male body is irrelevant to a physical sport.  Fallon Fox is allowing herself to be used by misogynists and what is going on when she fights is very distressing.

KatelynJecmen
KatelynJecmen

Yea well everyone has a theory on what makes trans people be trans people whether educated or not, but the irony is nobody ever listens to trans people describe how we feel. Just because you can't see the pain we live with doesn't mean it doesn't exist or is made up, the only reason it is a problem to most people is because they think everyone should live in the same ideals as they do, as opposed to living their own lives and aspiring to reach their own goals, we are not a hive mind and that mentality is wrong to impose on others.

jadd3065
jadd3065

I guarantee that another Director of Institute for Society and Genetics would say otherwise.  I also guarantee you would support the position that aligns with your personal beliefs. As we all know experts disagree every day.  Some are believe in global warming while others do not.   

KatelynJecmen
KatelynJecmen

oh and where do you get off saying "appears to look like a man" when A LOT of the women fighters are even more built than Fallon is? pllease do point to some trait she has on her that over 90% of the women in her division don't have

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